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Published February 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Holt: Night owl set to move into daytime ranks

When I crawl into bed here in the Midwest at the end of my day, my mom is brewing a cup of Earl Grey on the East Coast at the start of hers. For the past six years, I’ve slept mostly during daylight hours. I’m a night owl, and I have been for as long as I can remember.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

When I crawl into bed here in the Midwest at the end of my day, my mom is brewing a cup of Earl Grey on the East Coast at the start of hers.

For the past six years, I’ve slept mostly during daylight hours. I’m a night owl, and I have been for as long as I can remember.

That’s all going to change two weeks from today, when I leave the night desk here at The Forum to join the SheSays staff as a full-time reporter.

I’m excited for the change, but I’m worried about how I’ll adjust to “normal hours” and how it’ll affect my weight-loss efforts.

Currently, I don’t exist to the world before noon, at the earliest. As I type this sentence, my computer’s clock reads 4:03 a.m. Soon, I’ll have to be ready to start my workday when the little hand points to the 9. Thank God for coffee.

But can an intravenous supply of caffeine undo the effects of years of living in a nocturnal state? What ARE those effects?

For years, scientists have studied the effects of night-shift work on the human body. In 2008, researchers at UC Irvine found that a protein that regulates the body’s circadian rhythms, defined as cyclical patterns in biological activities, such as sleeping, eating, body temperature and hormone production, works in balance with a protein that regulates how much energy a cell uses.

In 2011, researchers at Northwestern University wrote: “Disruption of either the circadian clock or metabolism can lead to derangement of the other, thus predisposing to metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.” So my metabolism is deranged? Hmm ...

Apparently, our cells contain genetic code that instructs our bodies how to behave at certain times of day.

Also last year, University of Cambridge researchers found that a protein in red blood cells undergoes 24-hour oxidation-reduction cycles even in the absence of external cues, like exposure to sunlight. “Moreover, these rhythms are entrainable (i.e. tunable by environmental stimuli), and temperature-compensated, both key features of circadian rhythms,” they wrote.

Well, hopefully my cells remember what they’re supposed to do when I switch to days. I’m counting on you guys!

As I say goodbye to the nightlife, here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of my new schedule:

Con: At work, I’ll no longer be able to park on the street without getting a parking ticket. At the gym, I’ll no longer be able to park right in front of the building.

Pro: The farther away I park, the farther I have to walk, and each extra step helps bring me closer to reaching my goals.

Pro: Since I’ll be eating lunch when everyone else eats lunch, I’ll have more dining-out options.

Con: That means more restaurant, take-out and fast-food meals, which I need to cut back on for the sake of my health and my budget.

Pro: I can take group fitness classes to mix up my routine.

Con: Since I’ll be exercising during peak gym times, I’ll no longer have the place to myself. I don’t look forward to maneuvering around “Muscle Beach” at 6:30 p.m. Hey, this she-lifter wants to pump iron, too, mkay?

I’m willing to give up the few perks I’ve enjoyed as a creature of the night if it means I have a chance at “righting” my body’s natural rhythms.

Maybe I’ll find myself sleeping better, eating better, and burning more calories. Maybe it’s just the kick in the butt I need to get off this months-long plateau I’ve been on.

In the meantime, if you catch me nodding off, give me a poke ... or a double-shot espresso.


Forum copy editor Meredith Holt will share stories of her weight-loss journey in her column, which will run the third Friday of each month in SheSays.

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